Europe

Worth Reading

John Reed apologizes for creating Citigroup. What Europe is getting right in tackling unemployment. Public works projects successful in rural India? Study: Pork-barrel spending a symptom, not cause, of budget woes. Did Malcolm Gladwell cause Lehman's collapse?

Over a decade ago, I trundled my good-natured family across miles of southern Switzerland to see every building I could by Peter Zumthor, who is this year's winner of the Pritzker Prize. Then as now, most of Zumthor's work was off the beaten track, not only literally but metaphorically, little known to the general public although admired by professionals.

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Pipeline Politics

As the world tries to cut its carbon emissions in the next few decades, natural gas will become increasingly crucial as a stopgap fuel, since it produces less CO2 pollution than coal or oil. At least, that's what the EIA thinks will happen. And the geopolitical implications of this trend are interesting.

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Why Read Heidegger

German philosopher Martin Heidegger gets a lot of bad press. And for good reason. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis, he did and said and wrote some nasty things before and after serving as the rector of Freiburg University from 1933-1934, and though he eventually distanced himself from his earlier enthusiasm for Hitler, he seems never to have ceased believing that there was an "inner truth and greatness" (those are Heidegger's own words, spoken in a lecture from 1935) to the National Socialist movement. That sounds bad, and it is.

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Seeing and Believing

Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.

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The strategy that dare not speak its name: The Obama administration is quietly laying the groundwork for long-range strategy that could be used to contain a nuclear-equipped Iran and deter its leaders from using atomic weapons. U.S. officials insist they are not resigned to a nuclear Iran and are pressing negotiations to prevent it from joining the world's nuclear club.

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Worth Reading

Are the zombies out in Europe?  Betting markets don't (yet) think a public option is back on track. Dodd wants a temporary freeze on credit card fees and rates changes. Krugman on the parallels between dollar-pegged and gold-standard nations. How Nassim Taleb is "trying so hard to make the old sound new." Dan Gross: You need an anthropology degree to understand Wall Street.

End State

California is a mess, but I love it all the same--especially the Bay Area, where I lived for 15 years. I went to Berkeley in 1962--a refugee from Amherst College, which at that time was dominated by frat boys with high SAT scores. I didn't go to Berkeley to go to school, but to be a bus ride away from North Beach and the Jazz Workshop. In a broader sense, I went to California for the same reason that other émigrés had been going since the 1840s. I was knocking on the Golden Door. Immigrants from Europe had come to America seeking happiness and a break with their unhappy pasts.

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The defense ministers of our NATO allies met last week in Slovakia--a place where NATO power has much recent neighborly resonance--and among the gathering was also Robert Gates. His position on Afghanistan is not quite clear, poised as he is between his president and his men. Of course, Obama has more power.

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The Restless Medium

Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before By Michael Fried (Yale University Press, 409 pp., $55) I. Michael Fried,who shot to intellectual stardom in 1967 with an essay in Artforum called "Art and Objecthood," is an intimidating writer. He looks very closely. He has passionate feelings about what he sees. And he shapes his impressions into a theory that fits snugly with all the other theories he has ever had. Whatever his chosen subject--Diderot, Courbet, Manet, Kenneth Noland--he comes up with an interpretation that is as smoothly and tightly constructed as a stainless-steel box.

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